The Los Angeles Lakers lucked out when they managed to sign defensive ace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million contract in July. Ironically, it was the Boston Celtics landing Gordon Hayward in free agency that helped Los Angeles get Caldwell-Pope, as Boston traded guard Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons to make room for Hayward, which then caused the Pistons to allow Caldwell-Pope to become a free agent.
It was a fortuitous turn of events for a Lakers team badly in need of perimeter defenders.
During his four years in the NBA, Caldwell-Pope has developed a reputation for his stellar defense as well as an emerging offensive game.
His versatility has allowed him to take on some of the toughest assignments in the league, and he was recently asked on Uninterrupted’s Open Run podcast about just who was the most difficult player to defend in the NBA:
The toughest person I had to guard was Dwyane Wade. Just so much experience. The way he plays. He’s not playing fast, he’s just gonna give you everything.
While it’s somewhat surprising that Caldwell-Pope named Wade, it’s also understandable. The current, 35-year-old version of Wade doesn’t elicit as much fear as when he was in his prime, but Caldwell-Pope has been around long enough to have taken on a nearly full-strength Wade, and in the Eastern Conference he has seen him frequently enough to have a number of battles against him.
While he isn’t much of a shooter from beyond the arc, Wade possesses a number of spins, fakes, and counter-moves that make life difficult on anyone trying to guard him. As Caldwell-Pope notes, Wade doesn’t play quickly or beat players with pure athleticism much anymore, but he knows all the tricks and will simply find ways to score.
Caldwell-Pope hopes to impress this next season before testing free agency again in 2018.